Local teens play police in active shooter drill as part of academy experience

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SANDY, Utah -- A police training drill was underway at Eastmont Middle School in Sandy Thursday, and participants were acting out a scenario in which a an armed man opened fire.

A lot of teenagers were participating in the drill, but they're not pretending to be victims: They're playing the role of police.

FOX 13 News covers emergency training drills from time to time, but this one was especially intense because it involved 47 kids between the ages of 14 and 20. The juveniles are part of the Explorer Academy, which is run jointly by the Salt Lake City and Sandy police departments. The youth are learning during a 7-day mini police academy.

“They’re going to do a scenario where it’s an active school shooting,” explained Det. Veronica Montoya of the Salt Lake City Police Department. “…They're going to come in, in either a building clearing team or a rescue team, and they're going to find the person who is in here harming people.”

These live action exercises are the culmination of a week's worth of training for young people like 17-year-old Jacob Benson.

“I’ve always wanted to go into law enforcement ever since I was little,” the Brighton High School student said.

Benson was among those giving up a week of their summer to gain what he hopes will be a foothold in his future.

“If they do want to be police officers it gives them an idea of what is expected of them,” Montoya said of the experience.

Benson described the situation that unfolded.

“There was a gunman that we saw down there, and we were so focused on everything else that we didn't realize that he actually had a gun in his hand, at the very last minute we noticed and went over to that threat,” he said.

Participants pay a fee for the program, but most of the cost is covered by police agencies--who say it's worth it to get a glimpse at who their future officers might be.

“We can engage our youth, we can show them the different kind of calls we have to respond to,” Montoya said.

Both police departments are accepting applications for the Explorer Academy program, and officials said the children who participate do not have to be a resident of Sandy or Salt Lake City to apply.